|Image courtesy of lilinhah.|
A couple days ago I came across a terrific blog post by our friend, Gregg Krech of the ToDo Institute, which splashed a little wake up water in my face. Gregg writes about the relationship between what we give our attention to and our level of gratitude or criticism. As he says:
"Both gratitude and criticism rest on a foundation of attention. For us to express appreciation to our partner, we must first notice that she did something to support or help us. If I notice that my wife made the bed this morning, then I can let her know that I appreciate it. But if I don’t notice, then I have no basis for thanking her.Read the complete post.
Now why wouldn’t I notice it? Well . . . my attention may be occupied elsewhere. I may be noticing something she did to cause me difficulty or inconvenience. Perhaps there was no coffee left when I went to brew a fresh pot of coffee this morning. If my attention is on the fact that she didn’t get a bag of ground coffee when she was at the store yesterday, then I may not notice that she made the bed, or that she dusted the piano. Once I notice that there’s no coffee I may end up making a critical comment: “How come there’s no coffee? Didn’t you go shopping yesterday? How come you didn’t buy coffee?” This type of comment isn’t likely to cause a divorce. But what can happen, if you’re not careful, is that your conversation becomes dominated by such comments and that expressions of gratitude are limited. It’s not that there’s no basis for expressing thanks – there’s plenty of things your spouse does every day that benefit you. It’s just that you’re noticing, and commenting on, the ways she’s causing you trouble or inconvenience."
So lately I've focused on being more mindful about all the wonderful things my husband IS doing, and the difference in how both he and I feel is significant and tangible.
As Greg says in his post, this lens is relevant to "our entire approach to life." This is especially true for us as humane educators and changemakers. When we're interacting with someone whose values are very different from ours, are we focusing our attention on all the differences (and what we think they ought to change about themselves), or are we focusing on finding the commonalities we share and ways to inspire and empower?
When we immerse ourselves in the global challenges we're faced with, are we focused only on the problems, or are we also paying a lot of attention to successes and potential solutions?
Focusing our attention on the good stuff doesn't mean we ignore the bad, or that we absolve ourselves from the responsibility of taking action to improve the situation. But, as Gregg says in his post, "A lot of research supports the idea that intimate relationships thrive when they are characterized by positive interactions rather than negative ones," and that also extends to our broader relationships with others and with the world. When others have a good experience with us, they remember that. When we have a good experience as a humane educator, that sticks with us and boosts our confidence and resilience. When we focus on the successes and solutions, we help make it that much easier to create the just, compassionate, joyful world we're seeking.
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